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Pandemic Recovery: COVID-19 and Substance Abuse Treatment

The virus is changing recovery treatment for better and worse. Nexus Recovery Center cared for over 860 clients without a single case of COVID-19.
Heather Ormand Nexus Recovery Center

When COVID-19 reached Dallas in March, substance abuse treatment facility Nexus Recovery Center’s face-to-face therapies and in-person 12-step meetings were stripped away overnight. As women seeking treatment faced risks of COVID-19 exposure in hospitals and isolation from family members, the center’s demand for substance recovery was never greater.

“One-fourth of our clients report being homeless upon admission,” says Nexus Recovery Center CEO Heather Ormand. Nexus Recovery Center’s mission is to address high addiction rates across the country and provide the care and support women struggling with addiction in North Texas need. “So they don’t have family members they can turn to, they don’t have a protective home, and they’re scared to go to the hospital because of being exposed to COVID.”

With growing demands for treatment, the center saw more than 860 clients between March and July, with over 100 women and children living on-campus at a time. Despite the high number of residents and peaking COVID-19 rates across the nation, Nexus Recovery Center was able to keep its entire campus entirely COVID-free due to increased safety measures and successful campus-wide testing.

“We’ve made accommodations where possible, and I, myself, have gone and talked directly to clients to put their minds at ease,” Ormand says. “We’re just trying to create a safe and healthy environment. We want them to get the most out of their treatment experience and not feel like they’re on lockdown. I think the staff has done a really great job of achieving that.”

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the treatment facility employed isolation rooms across campus for symptomatic clients, contact tracing and admissions screening procedures, and various new virtual and socially-distanced activities to assist and engage clients through treatment.

Similar to physicians and nurses across the country, Nexus Recovery Center’s employees and staff members did not have the luxury to work from home due to clients living on-campus seeking recovery and treatment around the clock. As North Texas’ only substance use disorder facility that allows mothers to bring their children with them to treatment, staff members faced the additional challenge of caring for and entertaining young children during a time when community activities had to be reduced.

“One of the biggest positives is that our staff has seen how critical and important they are,” Ormand says. “Without their willingness to come to work every day, there would be nowhere else for these women and children to get help.”
Ormand became the CEO of Nexus Recovery Center only three months ago, in the middle of the pandemic. In the months leading up to her arrival, she worked closely with former CEO, Becca Cole, and staff leaders to develop COVID-19 protocols and safety measures.

Despite the health crisis and global uncertainty, Ormand says she has tried to take some positives out of the pandemic, especially when reflecting on the success stories of women receiving treatment this summer. “They’ve been protected and safe and are thriving and healthy,” Ormand says. “Now, they have a future. They have a place to go. We’ve kept a family together, and the light in her eyes has returned.”

While the facility has faced challenges with virtual therapy, technology has provided new opportunities for women to stay connected with the center after moving off-campus. To prevent the risk of relapse after finishing treatment, clients are often asked to seek residence nearby to maintain community and support resources. However, through technology adaptations, women may now have more flexibility in deciding where they are leaving the facility.

“There is a lot you can achieve through technology that we weren’t able to before,” Ormand says. “This has forced us to think more creatively and ask, ‘How can we achieve that?'”

We’re a complete support system and community in and of ourselves. The fact that we can create a safe space for somebody to be vulnerable and get help and then return them into their life with that resilience, that’s a success to me.”

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